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Lego Harry Potter's turnkey premise doesn't hold it back from advancing both game play and experience. Our family lapped up the co-op platforming and fell in love with the endearingly blocky rendering of Harry Potter's world.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is exactly what you are expecting. Just like the co-operative Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones games you and a friend bash your way through a quick witted rendering of the first four Potter books. It's a platform game that mixes in a fair share of lever pulling and assembly and is endlessly playable.
Compared to the other Lego games, things are a little more role-play focused here. Throughout the game you collect particular bricks that provide access to ever more powerful spells. It's a clever change that not only suites the more storied form of the subject matter but also knits the game together as we whole.
We've just been reading the books in our family, and this is the first of the Lego games I've watched my kids play. It really is magic to see the two brands come together. The diminutive stubby versions of Harry, Hagrid and Hermione are cute and identifiable at the same time.
Along the way you get to assemble an array of Lego kits. This is achieved by simply holding a button and watching the pieces fly together. I could listen to the perfect click clack sound, of each piece as it slots into place, forever. It's these sorts of details that really make the Lego games work, and it says a lot about how well the developers 'get' the joy of the older toy.
Ever keen eyed, my kids spotted a few places where the game strays from the strict plot of the books.
Ever keen eyed, my kids spotted a few places where the game strays from the strict plot of the books. Although rare there are moments when some artistic licence is taken - and no bad thing I think as the game is the better for it. For example the action element that extends the ending of the Prisoner of Azkaban. I won't spoil it for you, but while I could appreciate its purpose my kids felt a little cheated that the game was playing fast and loose with their bedtime story.
As you play you switch between the different characters - each of who have special abilities that need to be called upon from time to time. Often though you can simply choose your favourite from the books to play.
The more role-play feel to the game is accentuated by the use of spells. To keep things simple though certain spells are only made available in particular locations - where they will be of use. Then it is just a matter of collecting the right ingredients and pressing a button to cast.
Between levels, you visit Diagon Alley and further customise your character's costumes, spells, and other accessories. This balances out all the running around hitting things of the main game to ensure the experience as a whole still feels like Harry Potter.
Although we got through the game in around seven hours, our kids were keen to go back and play it again to unlock all the items they had missed first time through. There is enough depth here to warrant three or even four trips through the game - particularly if you want to unlock and play as all the novelty characters.
The best feature for us was the couch co-op where a second person can drop in and take over from the computer controlled companion.
The best feature for us was the couch co-op - as we call it. This local multiplayer means that a second person can drop in and take over from the computer controlled companion. The game seemed to come to life with two of us playing, and it was great fun to solve puzzles and collect pips together.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 understands itself and the Lego brand well. Our family quickly fell into regular evenings around the 360 as we all worked together. The game combines both the fantasy role-play feel of the books and Lego's compulsive brick building to offer a game that is quite simply a lot of fun. The more varied game play and better paced puzzles take this beyond even the high points of previous Lego outings - Starwars, Batman or Indie.
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